Saturday 20 June 2015

Our Pondicherry Top 5

1) Walking the streets of Pondi
The French Quarter of Pondicherry is where most tourists spend most of their time while in town. The streets are lined with pretty colonial buildings, mostly white or yellow, with ornate gateways and doors. Many of the buildings are also adorned with pretty plants and flowers. 

Pretty doorway

Outside, chalk geometric drawings decorate the entrances to welcome visitors. For the most part, the designs are in white chalk, but apparently more colourful chalk is used to make more elaborate drawings during festivals.

Welcome chalk!
It's interesting to walk around by yourself and take in the sights and smells, but we'd also recommend taking a walking tour around the town with a guide from Shanti travels to learn more about the history of the town. Shanti travels is at 13 Romain Rolland Street and the tour cost 1000 rupees for two (£10/$15). The travel shop is also handy if you need to book train and bus tickets.

2) Learning how to cook curry
I love curry! When we were in South America last year for 6 and a half months, it was the food I missed most, so I was keen to take a cookery class in India to hone my skills. Organised through the Sita Cultural Centre in Pondicherry, our class started with an interesting trip to the market, where our teacher explained what some of the more unusual looking ingredients on sale were and had us taste betel leaves, which many Indians chew as a stimulant (too much of it turns your teeth and tongue red). 

Soya beans and other pulses at the market
Back at the cultural centre, we were put to work chopping, grinding and frying to make dal (curried lentils), palak paneer (spinach and Indian cheese), okra salad and coconut rice. We also made a 'halwa' for dessert - made from semolina and butter. We served up our lunch on banana leaves and ate with our hands in true Indian style. It was delicious. I just hope I can make it again at home.
The morning class cost 2000 rupees for two people (£20/$30).

3) Eating food that others have made
I love curry! (I may have mentioned this already?) And was particularly pleased with the food available at Villa Shanti in Pondicherry. We saw other great looking restaurants in town too, but so enjoyed our meal here the first night that we couldn't resist going back. The restaurant was in a great setting too - around a courtyard of an old colonial building. If you go, try the black dal. Its delicious.

Yummy black dal
Also while in Pondicherry, its worth going on a wander around the food stalls around the promenade and trying out the pani puri, bhel puri and papri chaat. These dishes are tasty and incredibly cheap - a bowl of bhel puri set us back a whopping 20 rupees (20p/30 cents).

Getting stuck in to the papri chaat
4) At the beach 
Pondicherry itself doesn't really have a beach to speak of. However, if you want some beach time Paradise Beach is just 7km away. Its a beautiful stretch of golden sand and its safe to go for a dip there - although the waves were a little rough. There are sheltered areas on the beach if you want to get out of the sun, as well as a cafe, showers and toilets.

It was almost like our own private beach
We had a very relaxing morning by the sea and enjoyed having the beach nearly all to ourselves for hours in the early morning (it started to get busy from about 11 and apparently can get very busy). For more on how to get to Paradise Beach, see our earlier post Introducing Pondicherry.

Taking a cool dip
5) Walking along the seaside promenade (and the smell of jasmine)
While there's not much of a beach in Pondicherry, the promenade alongside the sea is very well used - particularly early morning and at night. It gets very busy at night and we particularly enjoyed joining in an evening stroll up and down the promenade. There was quite the party atmosphere - it felt like the Indian version of 'walling' that we found in Cartagena, Colombia. 

Walking up and down the promenade
Unlike Cartagena, it was unsurprisingly much less couple-ey, although we spotted a few young couples, finding a quiet spot to sit together on the rocks. Instead, there were lots of families strolling up and down chatting and laughing together. 

The air was also full of the smell of jasmine. It was jasmine season and so all of the women were buying jasmine to put in their hair. 

The different ways to wear your jasmine

I joined in too. The smell was amazing.

Related Posts
Introducing Pondicherry
Highlights of Bangalore
At the temple in Bangalore

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